I have had numerous people ask when I am going to write about the closing of two restaurants I frequent on a weekly basis: Elemental and Elemental Next Door (END). For those of you who aren’t familiar with these two joints and the polarizing masterminds behind them, Elemental is a petite restaurant located across from Gas Works Park, specializing in a blind tasting menu and wine pairings. END is its casual younger sibling, where you can order a la carte items and pick out your own beer and wine with dinner.
I need some time to mourn so I will write a farewell post in the next month or two. In the meantime, I am sharing the reaction my husband Mark had when Phred and Laurie told us a few months ago about their plans to not renew their lease at Elemental and END.
In the words of Mark:
When co-owners Laurie Riedeman and Phred Westfall told Jen they were shutting Elemental on June 21st, my first thought was “Phuck me.”
If Elemental’s closing marks the death of the blind tasting menu in Seattle, I’ll have to quit as Head of Security for Roll with Jen because I won’t even care about the restaurant scene anymore.
Eating a memorable meal is a lot like visiting the Grand Canyon: there are a couple ways to get there. The first route is to buy a bunch of guide books and do a boat load of research, talk to friends who have been there, decide on the best viewpoint and when you get there think, “Wow, that’s neat. It looks just like the pictures.”
The second way is to score a last minute airfare special, hop on a plane with your backpack and hiking shoes, rent a car, ask locals how to get to the iconic destination, and when your knees nearly buckle at the sheer beauty, just mutter, “Damn, now that’s special.” The latter is Elemental’s allure.
There are tons of great chefs out there who attempt to find the best local and seasonal ingredients for their menu, and then there’s Laurie. She slings an entirely new menu every week. This means on Sunday and Monday when they’re closed, Laurie and Phred are working on plates and a wine pairing they will serve for the first time on Tuesday. And when you show up Tuesday for that immaculate, virgin conception of a meal, you will be floored by the creativity of the dishes: sturgeon served with savory oatmeal, bunny mole tacos, scallops served Asian style to help ring in Chinese New Year, and celery ice cream with peanuts to name a few.
In addition to the phenomenal eats and Phred’s wry sense of humor, the people watching is highly entertaining.
I can’t even pick my favorite Elemental story: the date that ended abruptly when the young man had to carry his girl out of the bathroom after she passed out and lit her hair on fire with the candles on the toilet; the guy in a party of six who walked over to clean up his friend who had just puked on the front of his shirt at the dinner table, who then puked himself as he got close enough to “help”; the guy who made an ass of himself one night with one girl, then made an ass of himself the next night with a different girl.
As for you haters of Elemental, die a death most foul:
- You’ve had plenty of wine, but complain when the sommelier replaces your pairing for the next course.
- For the first time in three years, your companion remembered to take you somewhere special for your birthday but you are peeved because you don’t have the freedom to order that Bloomin’ Onion as an appetizer.
- You walk into a restaurant named Elemental and ask where you can find Elemental Next Door, expecting turn by turn directions in a British accent to an address other than next door.
Let me guess, you’re totally going to give this place one star on Yelp. You may even spend an extra four minutes thinking of a cheeky Twitter handle to post obscenities about the owners.
When Laurie and Phred embark on their next adventure, you naysayers are not invited. Until then, the rest of us will enjoy Elemental in its last 2 months. And we won’t ask what we are eating or drinking, because when it’s the best, we just don’t need to care.